…That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray.
Lerner & Loewe had it right. Ironic, isn’t it, that the one man who went “blissfully astray” tried to marry his way into a modern day Camelot? Looking at the Schwarzenegger-Shriver marriage now, we have to wonder what did they ever have in common? He’s a Republican, she’s a Democrat, and not just any Democrat, but one whose famous political family became synonymous with the Democratic Party. She had a close, loving relationship with her father, Sargent Shriver, a vice presidential candidate who started the Peace Corps. He suffered child abuse at the hands of his father who suspected Arnold was not his son. She’s an intellectual, a serious journalist. He’s a former bodybuilder and movie star. If they had filled out a profile on Match.com, they never would have been linked.
While the Schwarzenegger-Shriver saga plays out on the West Coast, on the East Coast we have the drama of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his wife, Anne Sinclair, who is doing Tammy Wynette proud. Unlike Maria and Arnold, Dominique and Anne have similar backgrounds. Both are educated, intellectual, accomplished, and wealthy. At some point, however, their paths began to diverge. This latest encounter with a hotel maid is not the first time he’s been accused of improper behavior. When did he acquire the nickname “The Great Seducer?” Surely this is not what Anne signed on for.
It’s often said that no one outside knows what truly goes on inside a marriage. With celebrities, we certainly have lots of headlines and conjecture. We still, however, don’t know everything. Most of us don’t want to know all the gory details.
What we do know is that marriage is tough. Two people fall in love, have dreams, work hard, and grow—sometimes together, sometimes apart. Someone said to me recently that his marriage has endured through 20-plus years because he and his wife promised never to try to change each other. Whatever works. Yet two people coming together (and I include same-sex marriages here, too), have to start out with some basic understandings: Do we want children? Where will we live? What religion—if any—will we practice? Will we have pets? What’s our idea of the perfect vacation? The perfect Saturday night? Will we both work? Are we spenders or savers? Seems simple, but I’m always surprised to find a couple who never had these basic discussions.
I thought about relationships during Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The film has been showered with praise for its beautiful scenes of Paris, fantasy storyline, great performances, and witty dialogue. While I enjoyed the film for all those reasons, I found myself focusing on something else, the romantic disconnect between the various characters. Some critics have categorized the movie as Woody-lite, a la-de-dah look at relationships, but there is so much of substance going on in this film that marriage counselors should use it as a teaching tool.
Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, who comes to Paris with his self-absorbed fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her pretentious parents. Pender has been making a lucrative living hacking away as a scriptwriter in Hollywood, but yearns to become a serious writer. When Gil starts to float the idea that he and Inez might stay in Paris so that he can finish his novel, he faces a wall of opposition. The warning signs are all over that Gil and Inez will never march down the aisle. A good thing, too. What we don’t know, however, is how these two people came together in the first place. Did he always want to become a serious writer? Did he and Inez tell each other their hopes and dreams for the future? That’s what I found myself thinking about long after the credits rolled.
I wondered about Maria and Arnold. Did she have a clue when they married that she would one day be forced to give up her career to become a political wife living in the California Governor’s mansion? I used to think that she married a movie star because she wanted to avoid the political life. What a shock to find herself on the campaign trail, for a Republican no less.
In our own lives, we see relationships playing out. Perhaps a relative (a son or daughter?) or good friend. We probably all know a Gil and Inez. Even an Arnold and Maria. If they are mismatched, hopefully, they will part before they marry. If not, well, we can hope that they will learn from each other, compromise (a must for marital success), and grow closer together rather than farther apart.
Photo at top is from the Starz original production of Camelot.